Mystery Skype with South Korea

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As Hannah, a teacher in South Korea, had a Parents’ Open Class early in the morning her time, she reached out for teachers in Australia or New Zealand to connect at this time and show the families the power that technology and global connections can bring to learning in the classroom.

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Fortunately, I had a year 7 class at this time, so it was possible for us to collaborate. They were similar ages from both countries, which was great. Discussions were made using chat in Skype as to how the lesson would look. Here is what was planned:-

  1. Start with Mystery Skype so students had to determine where the other class was from, asking questions that could only receive a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  2. We would toss a coin to see who would start the questioning
  3. Once the countries were worked out, we would share items of culture eg money, food, flags, Sth Korean traditional costume, sheep wool from Australia etc
  4. Learn some Sth Korean language
  5. Question time, if time permitted.

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Due to the space restraints in the classroom, most students had a book atlas to look through to determine where in the world they were from. Some had their portable devices. One of my boys tossed a coin over the webcam, Sth Korea called heads but tails was the outcome.

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We started the questions, which included:

  • is it hot there?
  • do you live on an island?
  • do you live near China?

It took about 10 minutes to work out the countries we were from.

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By sharing out cultural objects, we learnt about languages, accents, exchange rates, features of their money, value of money in each country, national costumes, how to speak some basic phrases in Sth Korean, some of the food differences etc It was a great learning experience with interested parents in Sth Korea looking on.

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The power of technology connections in learning


Each year, district schools, open their buildings to interested prospective parents. It almost becomes a competition, with some schools holding their information evenings earlier and earlier in the school year. Of course we all think that we teach in the ‘best school’!

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Although our school, Hawkesdale P12 College is small, it is big on opportunities for students. Technology has enabled us to open up the doors to the world. which includes expert speakers eg authors, scientists, museums; to global classrooms and to some of the best teachers and educationalists there are.IMG_2686.JPG

For the information evening, parents are divided into groups with both a teacher and student leading them around the school. Parents are rotated around Science, Physical Education, Food Technology, Robotics and Information and Communications Technology  areas where they participate in a range of ‘hands on’ activities.

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Each year I am asked to videoconference (using Skype) in to another classroom or with other teachers to show the magic that technology can bring to learning. My two wonderful colleagues, Steve Sherman (Living Maths), South Africa and Lin-lin Tan from Taiwan agreed to connect with us for each of the groups. Steve was at another school and kindly went out of his way to skype with us. This meant he used his mobile phone to connect and he was seated in his car in the carpark to talk to us. This was a first for me! To have an educator teaching us from within their car.

steve from south africa

Initially, the parents and students played Mystery Skype, asking questions that required a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to determine their location. Lin-lin had to tell them where she was from as they did not work it out in the allocated time. She also shared a poster and map of where she was from, some Chinese culture (as she is Chinese), her evening meal and some of the foods she enjoys. (Note, our school teaches mandarin Chinese.)

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After a number of questions by students, one of the parents determined Steve’s location with the question: “Did the Australian Cricket Team recently play in your country.”

nathan and steve south africa

People will often ask well “What did you learn?” from doing these connections. Here is just a little bit of learning in the 15-20 minutes that Lin-lin and Steve had.

From Lin-lin

  • Where in the world, Taiwan is. Some students may not have even heard of Taiwan!
  • What the Taiwanese language sounds like! (She was home about to eat her evening meal and her mother had called her to come and eat. She responded in her language to say that she was working with a class in Australia)!
  • It was very hot where she lived. (It is nearly winter here!)
  • We saw the soup she was about to eat – it was vegetarian with many healthy greens etc and heard about her fried rice for tea. She also showed us their pickles.
  • The landmark that Taiwan is famous for – the Tapei Tower
  • Chinese lucky envelopes and how they are used.

Steve Sherman

  • witnessed the true ability of being able to teach anywhere and anytime using technology. Steve taught us from his car in the school carpark.
  • exchange rates – students showed Steve our $5 note and he immediately turned into a learning moment. Parents and students had to search for the exchange rate between AUD and the Rand. The Australian dollar buys nearly 10 rands.
  • Different cultural phrases: South Africans say ‘tins of coke’, Australians say ‘cans of coke’
  • Students/parents had to work out how much a can of coke would cost in AUD, if Australians were in South Africa.

ANZAC day

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ANZAC Day is celebrated across Australia with a public holiday. It is a day of national pride and one of our most important national occasions. On April 25th,  we remember those who have defended our country in war time.

This date commemorates the landing at Gallipoli in 2015 – the first major military action by Australia and New Zealand during World War I. Australians become involved in marches, dawn services and remembrance services.

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Our school has a commemorative service the day before. It takes place in our school stadium. Student leaders participate in readings with our Principal and Assistant Principal reminding us of the meaning of this day. Two students are involved in the navy and army cadets. Dressed in uniform and accompanied by two student leaders, they parade our Australian flag into the stadium and lay it out on the steps to the stage. During the ceremony, students how have brought flowers lay them on the flag.

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The day care centre, kindergarten and our primary school students made poppies, produced posters or other art work and these were displayed on the walls or laid on the flag. A special Gallipoli oak tree was to be planted but rain prevented this from happening. field of poppies.jpg

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ANZAC biscuits are a tradition. Several classes of students made ANZAC biscuits. These biscuits were also on sale in the school canteen.

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At 6am, Hawkesdale held a dawn service in the community reflection space situated on the main road through Hawkesdale. Many people turned up for this event where we are reminded of the some of the history associated with wartime, odes are read and the Australian flag lowered, then raised. The Last Post and Reveille were played on a bugle and a minute’s silence observed. Hawkesdale P12 College school leaders, students who are on the Moyne Shire Junior Youth Council and the local scout group took a lead role. Wreaths and flowers are laid at the epitaph by community organisations and individual members.

HADDAC provided barbecued sausages and the Hawkesale Scout Group made ANZAC biscuits for breakfast afterwards.

South Western Victorian Bushfires on St Patrick’s Day

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March 17th was forecast to be hot and windy, with high fire danger and extreme warnings were issued by the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

It was an early morning rise on Saturday 17th March. I had stayed overnight with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in an airbnb accommodation in Broadmeadows as it was a short ride to Tullamarine airport. They were flying out to Sth Africa and had to check in at 7am. I was then to drive their car back home.

After seeing them through their flight check-in, I continued on to the Victoria Market to have some breakfast and purchase some fresh delicatessen items, meat and fruit. It was a lovely warm, calm and pleasant morning and I thought that surely the weather forecast was wrong.

After a 3.5 hour drive home, I stepped out of the car to feel the heat and the strong winds that were now blowing. It did not cool down much at all so even when I went to bed it was really hot. Instead of the winds dying down they continued to escalate in strength and speed – a most unusual occurrence. As I was tired I had retired early for the night.

Our landline phone had been out of order for four days, but Telstra had said it should be fixed by the following Tuesday. For some reason, I took my mobile phone to our room and placed it on the bedside cupboard (it is usually charged overnight in the kitchen). At 12:40am I heard it ring via viber (using our wifi) as we do not get mobile phone service at home. It rang out but started up again. I could see it was my daughter trying to ring us and assuming that one of the grandchildren had taken ill, I answered it. However, Katherine was trying to tell us that there was grass fire headed to Hawkesdale and that Hawkesdale was being evacuated. In fact, most people had left at 11:00pm. (We are 8kms south of Hawkesdale). Her snapchat was going wild with people’s photos and updates regarding the extent of th evacuation.

This was hard to believe, as we could not smell smoke or see any fire. Fortunately, our power was still on, so I started up our computer to check out Facebook and the Victorian Emergency website. To my horror, there were fire alerts over much of Western Victoria.

The other puzzling factor, was the fact that our pager had not gone off. My husband is a volunteer firefighter with Warrong which is just south of Hawkesdale and in cases of serious fires in our local area, his pager would have gone off.  Then….. the pager did go off! I quickly threw some things together, including our passports, a sleeping bag and pillow, jumped in the car to evacuate to my daughter’s house in Warrnambool, whilst my husband donned his CFA firefighting uniform and went to Hawkesdale to help fight the fires.

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However, 5 minutes down the road, I remembered my iPad which I desperately needed to keep up to date with the VicEmergency app. I quickly went back inside the house, got my iPad and drove down our drive for the second time. When I reached the end of our driveway, a car had pulled up. It was our neighbours who were coming back to check on us for the second time. They had been to our place an hour earlier and banged and banged on our door trying to wake us up and alert us of the approaching fire. Unfortunately, we had slept right through this. I thanked them and proceeded onto Warrnambool.

It was eerie driving to Warrnambool. There were no other cars on the road (as everyone else had most likely evacuated and reached their destination.)  I had the radio on and could hear all the bushfire warnings. Finally I reached Warrnambool and Katherine’s house. There was little sleep to be had as we listened to the radio and watched the app for the latest updates. Facebook updates provided information from those who had evacuated and from some who decided to stay at Hawkesdale. (They evacuated to the recreation reserve at Hawkesdale or to the Hall). From their updates we knew that Hawkesdale had still not been taken. However, I had no idea where my husband Bruce was. He finally messaged me via viber to say he was okay, had been trying to mop up the fires where they had hit on the farms in Greens Lane and put out some of the fires in the windbreaks and trees.

By morning, we were able to watch some of it on the television news. At 10am I decided to drive home and see what of my garden I could water (to save both the garden and our house, should the fire proceed once more). Winds were still fierce and it was still quite warm. At 4pm there was meeting organised by the CFA for community members in our school library. The library was full of community members and representatives from a wide variety of groups. We were briefed on the extent of the fire and some of the options for financial and hardship relief.

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The significant role of social media in all this.

Without social media, we may not have known of the impending fire until it was too late as we had no mobile phone service and our landline was out of order.

Snapchat: my daughter’s snapchat feed alerted her to the fires in the district including Terang, Camperdown and Gazette and then to the evacuation of Hawkesdale and the sheer numbers from Hawkesdale who had left. Watching the feed closely she realised she needed to urgently contact us using viber. Fortunately our power was still on for wifi to work. In real time, she was getting photos from people who could see the fierce fires nearby.

Facebook: updates here, enabled us to keep in contact with others who had evacuated and who had stayed in Hawkesdale. A site setup with the sponsorship of the Red Cross allowed us to mark that we were safe.

The Vic Emergency website: kept updating every 2 hours with the latest alerts, incidents and warnings.

 

Guest speaker for International Women’s Day

I received a very special invitation from Seena and Sebastian Panakal to speak to a group of women for International Women’s Day on March 8th. In Australia, the status of women continues to improve and gender equality is increasing in evidence. There is a lot of public attention on treating women with respect but that is still not always the case.

The group of women who I was to present to were from Kerala, India. These are Women of the Wiki, women who wish to become empowered, improve their status in life and the education of their community and to increase employment opportunities for their families. They do not enjoy the same privileges or standard of living that I, as a woman in Australia does. How special to share this International Day with women who lived in another country.

Sebastian and women

My role was to share the power that technology can provide. Accents can always be a problem and English may not be their first language, so I put together a brief Powerpoint presentation with images to help with understanding. I showed where I live  (on a farm in rural south Eastern Australia) and where I teach (a remote rural school of 200 students aged 5 to 18), an area that has no mobile phone service. However, access to the internet and a powerful network has enabled the world to be our classroom, resulting in a number of awards including global awards. Many invitations have now come my way to present at a variety of conferences both in Australia and overseas, including Qatar, Shanghai and USA. It is hoped that these women could see that ordinary women can achieve great things with the innovative use of technology and a strong network.

Skype was used to connect. Screen sharing allowed the Indian audience to see my presentation. Sebastian capably organised the videoconference from his end.

The women of Kerala, India were encouraged to consider tourism, providing homestays (through homestays.com or airbnb or similar) or “meals with strangers” (through apps and sites like VizEat, EatWith) could provide a welcome income for some of these women. Selling their craft work online is another possibility. The internet can open up willing global markets. They could teach their language online for a small fee. What other ideas do you have to help them?

Sebastian Panakal, a valued online teaching colleague, together with his wife Seena organised this event. Other online guest speakers were to follow. It is hoped that these women can think of ways to use technology to full effect and improve their and their family’s station in life.

One of the women asks a question

One of the women asks a question

 

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is a global day at the beginning of February each year, encourage people (especially students) to stay safe online.

Over the last few years, the Office of eSafety Commissioner, conduct an online webinar for schools with students of years 4-6 levels. These webinars are great as they are interactive and informative.

This year’s webinar’s theme “A better internet begins with you!” encouraged the students to make the internet a positive space to enjoy. Internet use was likened to playing sport. An email from Digital Learning informed us that there were more than 500 logins to the webinar with 17,200 students attending virtually. Time was given for students to discuss given questions and scenarios, the results then placed in the chat area of Adobe Connect. The updates certainly came in at great speed due to the number involved.

Students were each asked to make a pledge on how they could make the internet a positive place. Students in grade 4-6 made their pledges at the completion of the webinar.

Another great webinar with Greg Gebhart presenting, illustrating the power that technology can bring to the classroom.

Many valuable online resources can be found from the Australian eSafety Commissioner’s  website for teachers, the classroom, parents and community members.

 

Global Mardi Gras Judging for German Students

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The winner of the Mardi Gras competition – the Penguin!

Reinhard Marx has been an online teaching colleague for many years, and pushes technology use to the boundaries of the world. Each year he organises many activities for his classes and brings other classes and educators in from across the world.

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The class from Croatia, as seen through the Hangout!

Last night was one great example of his innovative work and this is what it looked like.

  1. Students in his school came dressed in costume for the Mardi Gras.
  2. Prior to the event he sent out a google spreadsheet seeking classes and teachers from across the globe to be judges. Interested teachers filled in the spreadsheet, with their name, class (if they had one), country and email contact.

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    The class from Hungary

  3. Just prior to the class, the link to a Google Hangout was shared

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    Tereza – a judge from Croatia

  4. Reinhard creatively set up 2 webcameras, one at the front for students to walk towards, showing their costume and also to act out their costume character.

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    The rear webcam allowed us to see the back of the costumes

  5. Another webcam was set up at the back of the room, so that we could see the detail of the back of the costume.
  6. There were three sessions in total. In my session, there were classes/educators from Hungary, Croatia, Russia and Australia
  7. A link was given to a judging sheet setup in Google Sheets. We gave each student a score for A) their costume itself and B)  for their ability to act out the costume character. Each was scored out of 10
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  8. The winner with the highest total received a chocolate bar!

Highlights

  • Sitting in on a German classroom virtually and hearing the German instructions and then often the English interpretations of the character’s costume.
  • watching students being pushed outside their comfort zones to try and act out their character
  • watching in real time, the global judges’ scores coming in on the spreadsheet
  • seeing the variety of costumes

The total time taken was approximately 50 mins. Great work, Reinhard on a very successful competition.